In the next couple of days, the Cleveland Cavaliers will officially sign Andrew Bynum to a contract, making him the newest member of the wine and gold.
It was a great low risk, high reward signing by GM Chris Grant, as if the big man’s knees aren’t healthy, the parties can go their separate ways after the season and the Cavs will keep their salary cap flexibility.
If Bynum is healthy, the Cavaliers get one of the few legitimate centers still playing in the NBA, and a quality one at that.
However, the organization should still tread very carefully in putting this year’s team together. In fact, they should plan things based on not having Bynum available at all this season.
That seems a bit harsh, but if the Cavs are serious about building a team that can make the playoffs, then they need to put that squad together without the former Laker, and have anything he gives the wine and gold be a bonus.
The state of Bynum’s knees are such that he missed a complete season last year while on the roster of the Philadelphia 76ers, who made the playoffs the year before and actually won a playoff series.
The Sixers gave up an all-star in Andre Iguodala, who would be a free agent after the season, to rebuild their squad around a franchise center, only to see him not play a minute.
They would up winning fewer games than they did the year before in a strike shortened season (35-31 in ’11-’12 vs. 34-48 in ’12-’13), missed the playoffs, and traded their starting point guard, Jrue Holliday for Nerlens Noel, the rookie from Kentucky who had knee surgery last winter.
This isn’t to say the same chain of events will happen to the Cavs if they put all of their eggs in the Bynum basket, but Grant needs to continue to put together a team that can compete for a playoff spot even if he doesn’t play a minute for them.
Cleveland should have a solid backcourt with Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, and Jarret Jack taking most of the minutes. There shouldn’t be any weakness at that spot if that trio can stay healthy.
Besides Bynum, the team has other injury woes that need to be address in the front court, as C/PF Anderson Varejao also cannot be considered reliable. That means that coach Mike Brown will have to depend on Tyler Zeller as his only true pivot man, with his only other options being true power forwards like Tristan Thompson, Earl Clark, and Anthony Bennett.
That means Grant should be looking for another big man who can take minutes if Bynum and Varejao can’t take the floor. And if the former can’t go, they certainly need a big man who is a threat to score in the low post.
The Cavs also need to continue to look for a legitimate small forward so Alonzo Gee can come off the bench. Gee’s game plays better in smaller spurts, his lack of shooting was exposed with more minutes.
If they can fill those holes, then they have a solid team, one capable of making the playoffs for the first time since LeBron James’ departure.
Then if Bynum can play, they have a chance to be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference.
It is too risky for Brown and Grant to depend on the big man. That’s a risk they can’t afford to make.